ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT

Several weeks ago, I realized why the president of the United States so often speaks like a seventh-grader. Three old men turned on the lightbulb for me.

I met the first two—elderly African-Americans using walkers—on the 38-Geary bus. They didn’t know each other but chatted amiably about life in San Francisco and growing up in the South. When one stood to get off, his walker’s wheels tangled with the other man’s. I pulled them apart. They offered smiling thankyou’s.

A simple lesson presented itself. As men age, their testosterone levels drop. Their aggressiveness dissipates. Older men—yes, cranks exist—tend to be polite and non-confrontational. They prefer talking over coffee, making conversation on a park bench or just chilling. Thus, the elderly define “cool.”

The third man was Senator John McCain. He recently had surgery for a blood clot above the eye. President Trump praised McCain and wished him a speedy recovery. Then he added, “We also need his vote [on the healthcare bill.]” Trump’s uncalled-for aside sounded awkward and childish, as well as selfish. Yet it represented, I believe, an attempt at humor. The attempt bombed. But I know where the approach came from.

Donald Trump and I grew up in the New York City borough of Queens. He lived in wealthy Jamaica Estates. I lived in middle-class Rego Park. We both developed a very New York sense of humor. As kids, my friends and I insulted each other good naturedly and people we didn’t like with the sharpest (and stupidest) barbs we could hone. Then we grew up. We learned when humor may be appropriate in private but unacceptable in public.

We didn’t abandon humor, though. Men rib their friends in private. It’s a guy thing. But unlike the Donald, my friends and I also love laughing at ourselves. Importantly, we understand that joking about people close to us is fine—if they buy in. And that even among friends, some lines are not to be crossed. That’s why a friend asked if he could joke about my hormone therapy (ending this Wednesday) for prostate cancer. I said, “Of course. I do.” Because we care about each other, the jokes and insults remain confidential and within bounds.

Trump knows no bounds. It appears he suffers from arrested development. While our peers ascertained the limits of making other people objects of humor, Trump continues speaking like an adolescent. Watch his televised remarks about others. They’re uniformly unfunny, tasteless and cruel. No adult, let alone the president, should say those things in public. Yet Trump does and remains clueless.

Last Monday, he delivered a highly-politicized speech to boys at the National Boy Scout Jamboree. He was way off base. The Boy Scouts of America acknowledged that.

With education and mentoring, twelve-year-olds mature and develop judgement. I Corinthians 13:11 offers a sound guideline. “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned like a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”

Donald Trump failed to learn that lesson. It’s sad. It’s also pathetic that so many of his supporters applaud him for “saying what’s on his mind” even when Trump utters remarks for which they’d march their own children off to the woodshed.

And now you know why Trump appointed Anthony Scaramucci as his f*****g White House communications director.

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5 Comments


  1. Penny De Paoli
    Jul 28, 2017

    Good observations, David. Really good. But the BSA “apology” was anything but. They apologized “to anyone who was offended”. That, sadly, is no apology. It is papering over unpleasantries. For example. If the flight attendant spills coffee on you and then says, “I’m sorry if you got scalded”. THAT is not an apology. I am monumentally disappointed in the Boy Scouts and have written to them. I hope others will too.


    • David
      Jul 28, 2017

      Yes, Penny, a half-baked comment. But on this one, I see the half cookie still on the plate. The BSA is not going to go head on with Trump. But I’m amazed—and gratified—that they took a stand. Imperfect. But a stand. For sure, Trump won’t get it.


  2. Jerry Robinson
    Jul 28, 2017

    I completely agree with your point as well as with Penny’s comment.


  3. Hilda Isaacson
    Jul 29, 2017

    He’ll never grow up. He doesn’t listen. He doesn’t care about anyone outside his family. He doesn’t love his country, the country of the constitution. People voted him in because they wanted change. Be careful what you wish for.


    • David
      Jul 29, 2017

      I agree, Hilda. The fascinating questions are: How many Trump supporters will melt away? Or will any at all? At any rate, history will not be kind—unless America becomes a very different country.

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